While the Croatian public is enjoying seeing Italian masters as well as new young artists, musicians, dancers and writers, the Italian Cultural Institute in Zagreb is busy preparing the next magnificent cultural season.
Italy and Croatia have been forging cultural links over the centuries, and they represent a fertile ground for today’s artistic exchange. The list of cultural works which the Croatian public had seen in the past years and those which are at present in the pipeline is impressive. There was the Caravaggio exhibition in the Museum of Art and Crafts, marking Croatia’s entry into the EU, which was definitely one of the more memorable ones, with many others have followed. For example, last year, the public had an opportunity to see the splendour of Italian Baroque featuring Tiepolo, while at the end of this year, the Museum of Archaeology in Zagreb will become a setting for the virtual exhibition Master Giotto devoted to yet another Italian master. These cultural wonders are not reserved only for the citizens of the Croatian capital: many exhibitions, concerts and movies, which the Italian Cultural Institute in Zagreb has unveiling to the Croatian public for decades, are traveling all around the country. And while the immortal masters are always a delight for the eyes and soul, so are the young Italian artists who are presenting their talents to the Croatian fans of jazz, dance and written word.
In interview for Diplomacy and Commerce, Stefania Del Bravo, the Institute’s Director, is already busy planning the cultural calendar for the next year. Although it is too early to speak about the programme in detail, she reveals some of the content to our readers.
How high is the cultural and scientific exchange on the list of Italy’s bilateral priorities in relations with Croatia?
Of course it’s very high up, due to the geographical proximity of the two countries and historical links.
The Roman Empire extended to Istria and Dalmatia (Split’s core is located right in the huge Diocletian Palace), and in the 12th century, Venice took power over Zadar and other towns in Dalmatia.
We recently staged a four-day event in Zadar, emulating the ancient Silkroad, the long commerce route from Spain to China where differents cultures, languages, traditions and religions met and intersected, giving birth to very interesting cultural commissions. Venice was at the heart of the Silkroad in terms of its commerce and Zadar has been recently declared a part of the New Maritime Silkroad, so our event, which received very positive reviews and appreciation, has been really timely.
Dalmatia is a particularly fruitful territory for cooperation in the archaeological sector, and in the Roman site of Burnum (not far from the Krka Park) Bologna University has a very active archeological mission. Since last year, the Institute has been strongly supporting the mission which is trying to restore the Burnum amphitheatre (the whole site and the basilica) and virtually rebuilding it with sophisticated technologies.
Of course, we are working closely with the 5 Departments of Italian Language and Culture (Universities of Zagreb, Rijeka, Split, Pula, Zadar), trying to support and foster the Italian language studies, and devising a joint programme for the Italian Language Week in October.
We are in contact with the Italian communities, having an interaction with them, inviting them to our events and trying to distribute our yearly programme of events in the whole territory of Dalmatia.
The Caravaggio exhibition in the Museum of Art and Crafts was a loan from Italy to mark Croatia’s entry into the EU. How often do you have the opportunity to present the artwork of the magnificent old masters to Croatian audiences?
Last year we had a magnificient exhibition at the MUO called „The splendour of Italian Baroque“, showcasing the works of Giovan Battista Tiepolo, his son Giandomenico and many other painters of the Baroque period.
We closed the year with another great event in Moderna Galeria, devoted to the Macchiaioli school of painting on the two Adriatic coastlines.
Last March, at the MUO, we presented another very popular event focused on design. The exhibition „Italian Light“ showcased over 60 Italian design lamps, created by the most renowned Italian designers, from 1950 to 1990. Many visitors and designers came to see the exhibition and we had an extensive and positive media coverage.
Late this year, we are going to present another major initiative in collaboration with the Museum of Archeology in Zagreb. Master Giotto is a virtual exhibition devoted to one of the highlights of Italian paintings. The section we are presenting, focused on the „Scrovegni Chapel“ in Padua, is part of a lager exhibition which was first staged in Scuola Grande della Misericordia in Venice last year. The exhibition makes use of very sophisticated technologies which cast lights on the smallest details of Giotto’s techiques. Seated in a darkened space, with the music by Paolo Fresu playing in the background, visitors will be able to listen to a narration about Giotto’s paintings on their earphones. We expect the project to be very successful.
How many opportunities do you usually create for young Italian and Croatian artists to get to know each other and interact with the Croatian audience?
As many as we can, because this is the real promotion of culture. It gave me a great pleasure to invite the young jazz pianist Enrico Zanisi, one of the best global emerging talents, to come to Zagreb and Zadar last November. Our doors are also open to young dancers that will perform at the Contemporary Dance Week in June, as well as to street artists participating in the Cest is Best festival. Also, young writers are very welcome.
Do people living in smaller towns also have the opportunity to see the cultural content you offer? What is your cooperation with smaller cultural institutions in Croatia like?
We really strive to diversify our activities. The Silkroad project was staged in Zadar because of its links with Venice. Next week, the Festival of the Mediterranean Cinema will open in Split with an Italian film and in December, we will play a central role in the Pula Book festival. We try to tour with our events, especially if they are related to cinema and music.
Which of your programmes in 2019 would you like to single out?
For next year, we are finalizing several important projects. Of course, I cannot reveal them officially until they are completely done.
I can say that, between late March and April, we are preparing an important exhibition on futurism and design in Zagreb and talks are under way with the Museum of Archeology to support another special event in autumn.
Cinema will continue to have a central role, with the annual event called Venice in Zagreb (a selection of Italian films presented at the Venice Biennale) and participation in other festivals around Croatia.
Music and dance will also have a priviledged position in our activities, and we are finalizing our partnership on a European contemporary dance project called „Migrant Bodies“ focused on the problematic of identity and intercultural exchange.
Books and translation will also have a special place in our programme, and we had a great success this year with the launches of Italian books translated into the Croatian langauge.
Each year, half a million people take Italian language courses that take place all over the world. How many are there in Croatia and how big is the interest shown in these course?
The Institute offers Italian language courses of all levels, managed by ABC School.
Notwithstanding the competition from other languages (German, Spanish, French), we had a sensible increase in the number of students last year, and, at the moment, there are close to 400 of them.
We also support Italian language laboratories in a number of elementary and high schools in Zagreb and TRANSLAB, an Italian-Croatian translation workshop which takes place every month at our premises.
How often do you support Croatian professors, experts and public figures if they want to go to Italy?
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation offers an important though limited support to Croatian professors and experts invited by Italian Institutions. Some of these invitations resulted in visits this year.